The summer brings travelling family circuses—like Le Cirque de Provence, which has been performing here for 26 years. Plus, film subsidies and Fadéla Amara's plan for the banlieuesby Tim King / August 31, 2008 / Leave a comment
The travelling family circus
In the summer, culture comes to rural France. Amateur choirs who have practised through the dark winter burst forth with their requiems and masses in ancient abbeys. There are concerts in the music rooms of private chateaux, perfect for the brilliance of Mozart arias, the brooding melancholy of Chopin or, more eclectically, Perrault’s fairy tales, with lute accompaniment. The room will be packed—urbane financiers from Paris, relaxing with their families, next to the local dentist or even a sheep farmer fresh from milking, massive hands on massive thighs. Above us, on the decorated ceiling, faded alchemical symbols remind us of man’s eternal quest to transform our base materials into something perfect.
If that’s too arcane, there is the travelling family circus. This Tuesday, for one night only, Le Cirque de Provence: Marc and Lydia Cornero, their children Laura and Christophe, and Christophe’s wife and tiny child. That’s it. One of perhaps 150 family circuses touring southern France, the Corneros have been coming to my village for 26 years, and Madame’s grandfather came long before that.
When I first became a fan, 12 years ago, there were three daughters, but two have since married and transferred to their husbands’ circuses. Now the show hangs on Christophe and Laura. Christophe is one of the best jugglers I’ve seen and he’s an even better clown. Laura, 19, is an acrobatic tightrope walker—bright and charming with the steely sexiness essential for that under-dressed job. By day she drives the big truck which hauls two enormous trailer-caravans.
I once saw them perform in a bicycle shed, lit by a single lightbulb, the roof sloping from nine feet off the ground on one side to six on the other. Christophe, forced to throw his whirling skittles lower than usual, juggled at double speed. High-wire acts were impossible: Laura did her act on a table, her sister Aurélie, who usually hung by her feet from a pole high above us, worked with her scalp scraping the ground.
When I saw them perform the other day, there were 35 people in the audience. To support performances in these tiny venues, I imagined Le Cirque de Provence must depend on subsidies, but Madame Cornero tells me that all their funding comes from box office takings.
France’s film subsidies
Even in France profonde, cinemas will screen some low-budget film from Iran or Mike Leigh…